After a Stroke, This Father of Five Rebuilds His Life
On a typical day, Les Tapia is on construction sites overseeing seven crews of workers who seal and waterproof concrete in Dallas. Despite having a hemorrhagic stroke on April 6, 2020, Les has returned to work, managing up to 50 staff.
“I’m grateful each day I wake up,” says the father of five.
While driving his truck to a job site, Les suffered a ruptured aneurysm, called 911 on his own, then endured a 14 second seizure in the ambulance. After two months in a coma, he was stabilized and came to Centre for Neuro Skills (CNS) Dallas, where he learned to eat, bathe, reason, and even dance with his wife again.
‘Now I Can Do My Job and Hold My Children’
While in the residential phase of the program, his neurorehabilitation specialist, Olga Castillo, became a key support. “She called me Don Tapia and told me ‘I’m your guardian angel.’ She was a godsend,” he said. The clinical team helped him overcome deficits affecting bladder/bowel function, vision, and difficulties with walking – his most painful challenge.
“I started from zero, my muscle mass was nothing,” he recalled. “I wanted to walk, it was an emotional time, but Kate Menke and Nettie Carrell, my physical therapists, showed up and now I can do my job, run, and hold my children.”
Les also required surgery because the stroke left him with a crossed right eye. “I looked like a chameleon,” he mused. Despite these challenges, he was able to operate a vehicle again, a key requirement of his job. The Dallas clinic utilizes a driving simulator, and having corrected vision deficits associated with stroke, he can operate a vehicle without challenges.
Counseling was also a crucial aspect of his rehabilitation. “I was always frustrated,” Les said, but Ana Ortiz, his counselor, “kept me sane… I’d done all these skills before, but when you can’t do them it’s mind blowing.”
Inspiring Hope In Others
While in treatment, Les and his wife Andrea welcomed a new baby boy during the pandemic, and CNS staff arranged for him to be present to hold his son for the first time. Today, his career is flourishing, and he stays in touch with the staff who saw so much potential in him. About once a month, he delivers a care package of tacos or bagels to his CNS team.
On a recent visit, Les noticed a patient who was struggling and was moved to support him.
“I showed him a video I took of myself struggling with the same exercise,” he said. “There was an instant sparkle in his eyes, and I watched him try just a bit harder. It hit me to the core. You never know who you’ll inspire.”